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Baseball vs. Basketball: The Top 6 Comparisons

Baseball is considered “America’s favorite pastime”. We love our basketball too, but it’s not steeped in American tradition like baseball. Although both games are played using a ball, they differ in many ways. So, what is the difference between baseball and basketball?

The main difference between baseball and basketball is the venue. Baseball is played outdoors on a diamond-shaped field, while basketball is played indoors on a rectangular basketball court. Other differences include game times, scoring, number of players, and general game structure.

Baseball hitter finishing his swing and a basketball player jumping to dunk the basketball. The overlaying text reads "Baseball vs. Basketball"

The table below summarizes the top comparisons between baseball and basketball. Stay tuned to learn more details about what makes these two sports different.

Baseball vs Basketball

LocationOutdoors on a diamond-shaped fieldIndoors on a rectangular basketball court
ScoringTeams score runsTeams score points
TimingUntimedA game lasts 48 minutes
Basic EquipmentBat, gloves, ballA basketball and hoop
Number of playersNine players per teamFive players per team on the court
General game structureA game is divided into nine inningsA game is divided into four 12-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime

1) The Differences in General Game Structure

Baseball is a unique game that holds a special place in American sports history. It is the only major sport in the country without a stopwatch meaning it is not timed like the others. Instead, the game has nine innings without a time limit causing the game to last several hours.

Each team takes turns playing defense and offense in each inning, with the goal of scoring runs. The defense players are fielders and pitchers, while the offensive players are batters and baserunners. The team playing defense prevents their opponent from scoring runs by recording outs as the other team tries to score runs while batting.

Baseball is Outdoors While Basketball is Indoors

Baseball is played outdoors, on a diamond-shaped field. Since the game is not timed, baseball games have extended into the night and have been cut short because of unfavorable weather.

Scott Barlow throwing a pitch to Mike Trout

Basketball, on the other hand, is a fairly simple game. It is an indoor game played on a rectangular court with hard floors. Unlike baseball, basketball players do not have to worry about weather conditions limiting game time or impacting performance.

Wide shot, side-view of a basketball court

Baseball is Untimed While Basketball is 48 Minutes

NBA basketball games last 48 minutes, and FIBA (International Basketball Federation) games last 40 minutes.

Each basketball game is divided into four 10 or 12-minute quarters, depending on the level of competition. Basketball games also have 15-minute halftime intermissions during the game. Like baseball, there are offense and defense players in basketball.

Basketball Has Rules on How to Move the Ball

Basketball has strict rules regarding how players can transport the ball. For example, players cannot carry the ball for more than two steps, and the ball moves on the court only by dribbling (bouncing) or passing.

Baseball does not have rules around how players can transport the ball from player to player. In fact, players have gotten the ball stuck in their glove and ended up throwing the entire glove to their fielder.

Basketball Players can Score Multiple Points at Once While Baseball Players can Score One Run at a Time

Basketball players score points by shooting the ball through hoops on either side of the court. Each hoop is awarded, 1,2, or 3 points depending on the player’s position on the court as they score.

If a basketball player is fouled while they make a three-pointer, they can even end up with a four-point play.

In baseball, one run is scored at a time. Sure, sometimes one play can result in multiple runs scored, but when one player crosses home plate, only one run will ever count.

Basketball Teams Have 15 Players on a Roster While Baseball Teams Have 26 Players

Although NBA teams can have 15 players on the roster, a basketball game only requires five players per team.

On the other hand, baseball teams can have 26 players on their roster. The bigger roster size makes more sense in baseball because baseball teams need 9 players to take the field.

2) Basic Equipment for Players

Team Uniforms

Most sports teams wear a uniform to help distinguish their team from other teams. This is no different for baseball and basketball teams.

In fact, a similarity between baseball and basketball is that each team typically wears two jerseys. One jersey is used for home games while the other jersey is used for away games.

Baseballs and Basketballs Use Different Sizes and Materials

Baseball laying on the grass and a basketball laying on a court

Both basketball and baseball require balls to play, but these balls differ in size and material.

For example, a baseball is small, weighing about 5.25 ounces with a 9-inch circumference. It has a cork center wrapped in yarn and covered with leather.

A basketball is much bigger and heavier, with a circumference of 29.5 inches and weighing about 22 ounces. It is made from inflatable rubber covered with leather, rubber, or other synthetic materials.

Baseball Gear is Completely Different Than Basketball Gear

Baseball players need special gear to minimize injury and perform their responsibilities, depending on their role on the field. For example, all batters and fielders require:

  • A bat
  • Batting helmet
  • Fielding glove
  • Protective gear (like an athletic cup)

 Catchers in baseball require:

  • Catcher’s helmet
  • Chest protector
  • Shin guards

Other baseball apparel players need include:

On the other hand, the basic equipment for a basketball game is a ball and a hoop.

Basketball players also need quality shoes to improve their performance on the court. Although players can play with regular sneakers, a quality pair of basketball shoes help provide stability enabling players to move laterally and make quick cuts against their opponents.

3) Game Location

Baseball is Played Outdoors on a Diamond-Shaped Field with Grass and Dirt

Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs playing at Coors Field in 2021

A baseball diamond is divided into an infield and outfield section. The infield is a square of 90 by 90 feet, and the outfield is the area between the foul lines.

The dirt portion of a baseball field is also part of the infield and consists of the home plate, the three bases, and the pitcher’s mound.

The outfield, the grass area beyond the infield, is divided into three portions: left field, center field, and right field. Remember, these portions are within the foul lines, so any area outside the foul lines is considered foul territory.

There are three bases on a baseball field, and each base is 15 inches, square-shaped, white, and located on three corners of the infield. The fourth corner of the diamond is home plate, which is a 17-inch, white, irregular pentagon.

The pitcher’s mound is:

  • A small sloped hill 60 feet and 6 inches away from the home plate.
  • The pitcher’s plate is a white 24 by 6-inch rectangular slab located on the pitcher’s mound.
  • A pitcher’s foot must be on the plate before delivering a pitch.

The catcher’s box is behind the home plate, measuring 3.7 by 8 feet.

There are two batting boxes located on the left and right side of home plate to accommodate both left and right-handed hitters. Each batter’s box is 4×6 feet.

The coach’s boxes are located on the first and third base of the baseball field. Coaches stay in these boxes to direct their players during a game.

Players and coaches on a baseball field stay in the dugout during a game. There are two dugouts on a baseball field, one for the home team and the other for the visiting team.

Dugout designs can differ depending on the field location. Some are slightly underground with benches, while others have a tunnel leading to the benches, a clubhouse, and helmet racks.

Other components of the baseball field include:

  • On-deck circle
  • Bullpen
  • Running lane
  • No man’s land
  • Batter’s eye
  • Foul poles 

Basketball is Generally Played Indoors and on a Court

Wide shot, side-view of a basketball court

Basketball can be played outside among friends at your local school or park, but when people think of basketball, they typically think of NBA players playing in an indoor arena.

All professional basketball games are played indoors in a gym on a basketball court. Like baseball, a basketball court also has essential components that every player or fan must understand.

As the name suggests, the basket is the most important thing on a basketball court. There are two baskets on a basketball court, one for each team. A basket is a net attached to a rim connected to a backboard on either side of the court.

A basketball court is rectangular-shaped with two baselines and two sidelines 50 by 94 feet.

The baselines, also known as the end lines or boundary lines, are located underneath each basket.

The sidelines are the longer side of the rectangular court (94 ft). Players who go beyond the baselines or sidelines with the ball during a game are out of bounds.

A court is divided into two halves, the frontcourt, and the backcourt, by the mid-court line. The frontcourt is where the offensive team is trying to score. The backcourt is where a team’s defensive players defend their basket.

The front and backcourt have an arc called the three-point line.

The three-point line is a vital player position on the basketball court because it determines the number of points a team earns during a game. For example, when a player scores a basket beyond the three-point arc, they get three points – when they score from inside the line, they get two points.

In the middle of the court is the center circle or jump circle. This is where players put the ball into play at the beginning of each game with a jump ball.

“The paint” is the painted space from the baseline, underneath the basket, to the free throw line on either side of the court. Offensive players are not allowed to spend more than three seconds in the paint.

The low blocks are on the edge of the paint on each side of the hoop. Low blocks are position markers for certain players during the game.

The small lines at the edge of the basketball paint are known as hash marks. These are also position markers for non-shooting players during free throws, and the coach can also use them for play design during a game.

Within the paint area is a small ark marking the restricted area on a basketball court. Players in this area cannot draw a charging foul against their opponent during a game.

4) Scoring Works Differently In Baseball and Basketball

Baseball scoring is recorded by totaling the number of runs scored per team. A player scores one run when they safely touch all bases in an inning.

A baseball scoreboard located just beyond the outfield fence

While the concept of scoring may seem the same, baseball players are very against the idea of someone scoring a “point” in baseball. If you’re looking to get under the skin of a baseball player, try referring to “runs” as “points”.

After nine innings in a baseball game, a winner is declared, but if the game ends in a tie, the game will go on for extra innings until a winner is determined.

Scoring in basketball works differently.

Closeup of a standard basketball scoreboard

Players score points by shooting the ball through the hoop, and the team with the highest points wins the game. A team can earn between one and three points depending on the position they shoot from on the court.

On rare occasions, basketball players can earn a four-point play if they make a three-pointer, get fouled, and make the free throw.

Basketball players can score points with a two or three-pointer and with free throws.

Two and three-pointer scores are also known as “field goals” (not to be confused with the football term). A team earns two points when a player makes the shot during play from the court and when they are inside the three-point line. A team earns three points when a player makes the basket from beyond the three-point line.

Free throws are made from behind the free-throw line and are worth one point each. A team gets a bonus shot, a free throw after their opponent has reached the maximum number of fouls in a game.

Finally, an “and one” is a type of free throw in basketball that is worth one point because the player making the shot was fouled while shooting.

5) Timing

The average baseball game lasts about three hours, but there is usually no time limit for a game. This is because a baseball game goes on until there is a winner.

Unlike other major sports, baseball does not have a designated halftime. Instead, there are short breaks between the top and bottom of each inning when players switch places, allowing others to rest.

A basketball game has two types of clocks. A game clock and a shot clock. The game clock times the game, while a shot clock times a player when shooting a basket. The shot clock in an NBA game lasts 24 seconds and 30 seconds in an NCAA game.

Basketball games have different durations depending on the competition level. For example, NBA games are divided into four 12-minute quarters lasting 48 minutes, while WNBA and NCAA college basketball games have two 20-minute halves lasting about 40 mines per game.

All basketball games have halftime when players rest and restrategize for the second half. Halftime is 15 minutes long for every basketball game, and the clock does not run during this time.

When a game ends in a tie, the game goes into overtime which lasts five minutes. If there is no winner after the first overtime, the teams will play a second overtime and continue until a winner is determined.

6) Number of Players

A baseball game has 18 players, with 9 active players on a baseball scorecard per team. Each team takes turns playing offense and defense each inning. The roster of an MLB team is 26 players in total.

In basketball, each team is allowed 15 players on their roster, but only five players from their roster can be on the court during a game. A basketball team can also start and finish a game with four players.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.